• /
  • Enforcement
  • /
  • Second Settlement Reached in Residential Rehab Facility Disability Lawsuit

Second Settlement Reached in Residential Rehab Facility Disability Lawsuit

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

March 17, 2022


The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced today that an additional settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) alleging disability discrimination by operators of residential drug and alcohol rehabilitations residences located in New York.

The lawsuit alleged that Defendants Arms Acres, Inc.; and Liberty Management Group, Inc. refused to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services and declined to give deaf persons access to their residential recovery facilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law.

The settlement agreement was so ordered by the Hon. Judge Lewis J. Liman on March 7, 2022. A separate settlement with Defendant Odyssey House, Inc. was reached in November 2021.

The case was the result of an FHJC investigation in which testers, posing as relatives of deaf persons seeking a residential recovery program, were repeatedly informed that the facilities would not provide ASL interpreters and could not admit deaf people who require ASL services. The investigation represents a cutting-edge innovation in systemic fair housing testing of residential treatment centers.

While denying the allegations, the defendants have agreed to pay monetary relief of $107,500 and extensive injunctive relief including:

  • Agreement to not refuse to admit prospective residents because they are deaf and/or hard of hearing, and to not refuse to provide auxiliary services such as ASL interpreters when necessary for effective communication;
  • Adopting new policies and procedures for communications with deaf or hard of hearing persons, including the development of a customized Communication Plan for residents who request such auxiliary services;
  • Changes to defendant’s website to state that Arms Acres provides auxiliary aids and services when necessary to deaf and/or heard of hearing individuals, and the inclusion of the international symbol for sign language interpretation;
  • Placing a sign at the admissions area informing the public to inquire about any disability accommodations needed;
  • Training for key facility staff on legal issues concerning deaf and hard of hearing persons, including compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act and the New York State Human Rights Law, as well as sensitivity issues regarding deaf and hard of hearing and other protected classes;
  • Agreement to maintain and make available specific records for review by the FHJC to document efforts made to comply with the terms of the settlements.

“Substance abuse is a life-or-death issue,” stated FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman. “Anyone who finds the strength and courage to confront their addiction should not also have to face illegal discrimination in their attempt to find treatment.”

FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali added, “This settlement should put all residential treatment centers on notice: Deaf and hard of hearing persons must have the same access to your facilities as anyone else.”

FHJC Investigative Director Alaine Dungee noted that the organization prides itself on being at the forefront of fair housing investigative techniques and practices. “That this first-of-its-kind systemic testing investigation resulted in a successful settlement is a testament to the hard work and vision of our investigative and legal teams.”

A complete list of translation services, devices, and practices legally required to be provided for deaf and hard of hearing persons living in residential treatment centers, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities is available on FHJC’s website. Click here to view and download the Guide to Auxiliary Aids and Services, produced in conjunction with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

A short educational video and two public service announcements that discuss the fair housing rights of deaf and hard of hearing persons in residential treatment facilities are also available on FHJC’s website. Click here to view and to learn more. The videos were directed and produced by Hypernovas Productions

The FHJC was represented by Andrew Rozynski, Eric Baum, and Reyna Lubin with the law firm of Eisenberg & Baum LLP.

FHJC’s investigation in this case was supported with funding from Enterprise Community Partners (ECP) under the Eliminating Barriers to Housing in New York (EBHNY) Initiative.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.